Passing the Torch
Szymanski takes helm of Chamber
by Clay Neely
Sharon Szymanski took the gavel as the 2014 chairman of the board for the Newnan-Coweta Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday.
The passing of the gavel was a highlight of the 2014 annual meeting luncheon of the Chamber, held at the Newnan Centre. This year marks the 66th annual meeting for the organization.
Szymanski, EVP of Sales for Sequoia Golf/Canongate Golf Club, succeeds Dean Jackson, public information officer for the Coweta County School System, as chair of the Chamber board.
“One of the things I want you to understand is that what Dean has achieved for the Chamber over this last year,” Szymanski said. “You inspired me from your belief in this community and I only hope I can be as good as you have been,” she told Jackson. “I want to make sure you know how much we appreciate everything that you’ve done.”
“As you see all around you is magic, which is our theme for 2014, the prosperity of magic,” Szymanski told those gathered for Wednesday’s luncheon. “We’re lucky to be a part of this community and it lays claim that we can be prosperity’s front door. We can't take that for granted. We’re a great Chamber.”
Szymanski said that while Sequoia/Canongate belong to numerous chambers throughout the Atlanta market, she noted that the members of the Newnan-Coweta Chamber of Commerce are what sets them apart from the others.
“The key to magic is continuing growth and improvement, and when I stand here next year I hope to share with you all the accomplishments and growth that we will have seen,” Szymanski said.
Szymanski noted that she feels lucky and blessed to work with the group that serves as the Chamber’s executive board for 2014.
Prior to handing off the gavel to Szymanski, Jackson expressed his gratitude to the audience.
“It has been a wonderful year,” Jackson said, before presenting a slide show citing the numerous accomplishments of the Chamber and its members for the 2013 year.
Jackson noted that the 2013 Chamber posted the most successful financial year in its 66-year history, closing the year with a positive budget gap, growing long-term reserves and welcoming 233 new members to the Chamber family.
Also noted by Jackson was that the 2013 Chamber earned the very distinguished five-star accreditation from the U.S. Chamber, which puts it in the top 1 percent of chambers nationally.
Jackson recognized and thanked the executive committee members, board members and staff, specifically noting previous chair Dennis McEntire for his 20 years of service.
Awards were presented to Nick Garrison as Ambassador of the Year and to Sharon Rogers as Volunteer of the Year. Martin Pleyer was presented the Chairman’s Award. “There were some tremendous achievements in 2013 here in our community. I’m proud to be able to recognize the actions and achievements that have significantly contributed to the economic prosperity and development of our community and the success of our Chamber in the last 12 months.” Highlights of the Prosperity Awards included Bonnell’s $17 million expansion, and the recognition of the Coweta County Board of Commissioners for their elimination of impact fees, “which has strengthened Coweta County’s position as Prosperity’s Front Door,” Jackson said. Other notable award recipients included:
• Custom Molded Products, which moved into the former Rite Aid distribution center in the Shenandoah Industrial Park and brought 60 jobs to the community. • Newnan Chrysler Jeep Dodge, whose opening resulted in more than 20 new jobs.
• 75 Jackson Real Estate for their renovation of the 300 Bullsboro Building in Newnan.
• The Centre for Performing and Visual Arts for being a “pearl of the community” for 10 years and impacting Coweta’s quality of life and community competitiveness.
• The city’s Newnan Centre meeting facility, located adjacent to the performing arts center, for generating an increased community economic impact.
• West Georgia Technical College for its new, state-of-the-art, 38-acre Coweta facility serving almost 7,000 students.
“Today, we are standing in a realization of a vision that we had in the community for a very long time, this conference center,” Jackson said.
“It’s another part of making our community strategically competitive in this region.” The annual meeting was held under the title of “The Magic of Prosperity,” which included a performance by “Chief Impossibility Officer” Joe M. Turner.
“We are so excited for the magic to begin,” said Candace Boothby, Chamber president and emcee for the annual meeting.
Turner closed out the event with his presentation of combining a magic show with business analogies.
“Magic, like any other business, is about two key things — creating amazing experiences for your audience and solving problems for yourself and other people,” Turner said. “If you can do those things, then you will be prosperous.”